Wendell Green is looking forward to every part of Auburn’s tour of Israel, except just that first part:
The flight’s going to be a long one.
What’s the remedy? Getting a few Netflix movies downloaded to their devices will be key, a couple of players said, and some nap time will be crucial — all part of the big first hurdle the Auburn men’s basketball players were talking about Friday at Neville Arena during their last practice before the trip.
Once the team lands, though, it should be smooth sailing. The tour will take players to some of Israel’s most important historical sites, and the team will play three televised games in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Players had their first meeting with the media before the trip Friday, and said they were looking forward to visiting, competing, and treating the exhibition outings just like they were real, regular-season games.
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“For sure playing, but just all the tours,” Green said, when asked what he was looking forward to. “Everything happened — all the religions — everything happened in Israel.
“Just accepting it as a blessing to go out there, and it should just be fun.”
It’ll be the first trip for the team with its four newcomer players: Johni Broome, Tre Donaldson, Chance Westry and Yohan Traore.
“Just getting closer to my brothers,” said Broome. “As a team, we’re coming to Israel to compete and show our other competition in the SEC what we can do and how the team’s looking, but most importantly we’re going to see some of the historic sites and bond with my teammates.”
All three games will be televised on the SEC Network with tipoffs at noon Central and at 8 p.m. in Israel.
On Aug. 2, Auburn opens against the Israel U-20 National Team in Jerusalem before the tour shifts to two games in Tel Aviv against the Israel All-Star Select Team on Aug. 7 and against the Israel national team on Aug. 8.
“Israel, Jerusalem, is kind of where the Bible was written, right?” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “And a lot of these guys read the Bible and a lot of these guys have got family that read the Bible, and some of their family might never get the opportunity to go over there, so sort of vicariously, families are living through these student-athletes and their experience.”
Pearl is Jewish but has talked about the area’s importance in history and in different religions. The team is set to have a meal with the Palestinian national team’s basketball coach during the trip.
The Tigers are all set for takeoff, but there’s one more catch too:
Auburn was practicing Friday with the international competition ball, which has bands of different coloring on it and is apparently a bit slippery.
“The international ball has no grip,” Chance Westry laughed. “It has no grip. But we’ve just got to get used to it and get ready to play in Israel.”
Green shook his head: “KD called it a soccer ball,” he laughed.
Still, the Tigers have been practicing with it for a couple of weeks now, and Green is confident with the ball in his hands.
Like with those Netflix downloads, he’s prepared for the trip.
“It did (feel different) at first but I’m pretty used to it now,” he said. “I feel pretty good about it.”